We’re treated to a warning for this Easter weekend – be careful about trying to do that DIY for you might end up in hospital. This is fair enough, there’s always some idiot who tries clambering around the roof to clear the gutters, another with the power saw who ends up sans finger. But within this – something those warning us haven’t noted – is good evidence of a gender split in what work gets done. This very gender split being something that takes us a long way to understanding the gender pay gap:
First, health chiefs warned of the perils of Easter eggs – which stood accused of fuelling Britain’s obesity crisis. Now millions of DIY- enthusiasts are being cautioned to take care before indulging in another bank holiday tradition – the home improvement, Health officials today urged those tempted to pick up their power tools this weekend to think twice, in case they end up in hospital.
Yes, great, and why not such a warning? Tiles can and will be dropped on feet, backs will pop while grouting. But it’s this next bit:
And they warned that men are far more likely than women to end up suffering injruies from powertools, lawnmowers, or toppling off ladders. Data for England shows there were 4,764 admissions to NHS hospitals in 2017/18 for injuries from drills and other power tools – up 7 per cent on the 4,446 three years earlier. A further 6,372 admissions were for people ending up in hospital after tumbling from a ladder, while 519 admissions involved an accident with a lawnmower. Separate figures on patients seen by hospital consultants show that men were far more likely than women to end up suffering such accidents. In the 12 months to March, there were 7,400 occasions when men needed consultant care after being injured by a lawnmower or tool, compared with fewer than 1,200 women.
Are men more incompetent than women? Only if your source of information is the advertising on the goggle box. Rather, what we’ve got here is men doing more of the potentially injurious work.
That is, we’ve a gender split in what gets done by whom within a household. This does not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever lived in a household. Even in those with a strict split of hours of duty which duties can still be gendered. Who takes out the trash can be – from observation is – something which is simply assumed to be a task for one partner in the joint enterprise. No doubt other examples can be thought up.
And as it turns out we’ve empirical evidence that it is men who do the more dangerous portion of whatever DIY work gets done. This usefully being true of the economy as a whole:
Last December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released final data on workplace fatalities in 2017, and a new “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” can now be calculated. As in previous years, the graphic above shows the significant gender disparity in workplace fatalities in 2017: 4,761 men died on the job (92.5% of the total) compared to only 386 women (7.5% of the total). The “gender occupational fatality gap” in 2017 was again considerable — more than 12 men died on the job for every woman who died while working.
Based on the BLS data for 2017 for workplace fatalities by gender (and assuming those figures will be approximately the same in 2018), the next “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” will occur more than 11 years from now – on May 3, 2030. That date symbolizes how far into the future women will be able to continue working before they experience the same loss of life that men experienced in 2018 from work-related deaths. Because women tend to work in safer occupations than men on average, they have the advantage of being able to work for more than years longer than men before they experience the same number of male occupational fatalities in a single year.
Economic theory tells us that the “gender occupational fatality gap” explains part of the “gender earnings gap” because a disproportionate number of men work in higher-risk, but higher-paid occupations like logging (98% male), roofers (99.4% male), truck drivers (93.8%) and electric power line workers (99.4% male); see BLS data here. The table above shows that for the 10 most dangerous US occupations based on fatality rates per 100,000 workers by industry and occupation in 2017 men represented more than 90% of the workers in 8 of those 10 occupations and more than 88% of the workers in 9 of the 10 occupations.
On the other hand, women far outnumber men in relatively low-risk industries, sometimes with lower pay to partially compensate for the safer, more comfortable indoor office environments in occupations like office and administrative support (71.6% female), education, training, and library occupations (73.2% female), and healthcare (75.0% female). The higher concentrations of men in riskier occupations with greater occurrences of workplace injuries and fatalities suggest that more men than women are willing to expose themselves to work-related injury or death in exchange for higher wages. In contrast, women, more than men, prefer lower risk occupations with greater workplace safety and are frequently willing to accept lower wages for the reduced probability of work-related injury or death. The reality is that men and women demonstrate clear gender differences when they voluntarily select the careers, occupations, and industries that suit them best, and those voluntary choices contribute to differences in pay that have nothing to do with gender discrimination.
Note that our gender division within households has nothing to do with capitalism, The Man, the structure of the economy nor discrimination against nor in favour of women by society at large. Given that this is a within household decision this is one being made by men and women as to how their own lives are to be lived. Influenced, of course, by the assumptions of their upbringing and the society around them, but not imposed upon them in any manner.
Which does lead to an interesting thought. As and when that gender allocation of DIY labour is entirely equal is going to be about the time that the gender pay gap disappears. And when do you think that’s going to be?